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  • Writer's pictureLaura McBride

Irish Beach Spaghetti

A version of this was first published Tuesday, July 27, 2010, on my blog Workable Food.

When most people cook at the beach, it's hot dogs and hamburgers, with some home-made potato or macaroni salad in the cooler.

When people in Ireland cook on the beach, the fare is somewhat more adventurous. In the case of one Irish beach cook, it extends to spaghetti with a luscious sauce, green salad and fruit or biscuit (cookie) dessert.

The only name I have for this recipe is Mrs. Kelly's Beach Spaghetti. I learned it from a teenager who had been a weekend houseguest of the aforementioned Mrs. Kelly when the teen was at boarding school in Ireland. After the teen left the Irish boarding school (during the scary first Iraq War) and went home to the States where I lived at the time, she made it for me one day when her parents were away and she was staying home alone for the first time: I was the honorary auntie despatched to check up on her and see that she was all right. (The teen has since grown up and started a gourmet pimento cheese company in Lexington, KY, JP Foods, not surprisingly.)

Mrs. Kelly's Beach Spaghetti Made at Home

The smaller amounts will serve 2-3, the larger amounts will serve 4-6, or even more with a really big salad and lots of bread


  • 1 package or more Canadian bacon (for Americans and Canadians) or 1 package or more of rashers for English and Irish cooks, coarsely chopped

  • 8 to 16 ounces of sliced fresh mushrooms

  • 1 or two pints heavy cream (US, Canada); double cream (Ireland, UK)

  • Bottle cream sherry (optional)

  • Butter (about half a stick; judgment called for)

  • Tub of grated Parmesan

  • Salt, Pepper

  • 1 Package pre-cooked pasta, any shapes you like


  1. Heat a cast-iron skillet or other heavy-bottomed saute pan. Melt enough butter to brown the amount of mushrooms you've got.

  2. Toss in the mushrooms and chopped bacon and brown both.

  3. Splash in some cream sherry. Don't wet the mushroom mixture much; the sherry is just for extra flavor and should almost instantly burn off.

  4. Lower the heat or, if cooking on an open fire, move pan to less hot area.

  5. Stir in the cream and keep heating and stirring until a nice, thick consistency is reached.

  6. Add as much Parmesan as you like, but at least a good few TBSPs. Stir.

  7. Serve sauce over cooked spaghetti of your choice. You can add some chopped fresh basil or marjoram at this point, too. Or add a couple of pinches of dried basil or marjoram just before the Parmesan.

Obviously, this is a simple meal to make in the kitchen, but almost as easy at the beach.

Making Mrs. Kelly's Beach Spaghetti at the Beach

To make this meal at the beach, you'll need a good stable portable charcoal or gas grill, a large skillet, and a deep pot for reheating the pasta, along with a jug of clean water to reheat the pasta in.

Here's how to carry on, then.

At home:

Cook and drain the pasta at home and package it in a plastic container.

Chop the bacon and slice the mushrooms and package those separately.

Wash and prepare the greens for your salad and package in plastic bag or the bowl you'll bring for it, covered in plastic wrap. Pack your dressing separately so the salad won't go all manky.

Keep all this and the butter and cream and Parmesan and fresh herbs in the cooler to take to the beach.

At the beach:

Put some water in the large pot and bring to the boil as you make the sauce, as above. Just before serving, drop the cooked spaghetti into the water just long enough to heat. Drain and place in serving dish. Add sauce.

Toss your pre-washed salad leaves with some bottled dressing.

Unless you've decanted some sherry to cook with, you can just drink the sherry with the meal or after, with the biscuits you've brought, and have a nice bottle of wine with the spaghetti.

Packing list for Beach Spaghetti:

(Non-perishable items)

1 spaghetti pot and bottled water, if water is not available at the beach of choice

1 large heavy skillet, preferably cast-iron

1 colander for draining

1 large cooking spoon

1 spatula

1 heat-resistant large bowl for serving pasta

1 salad bowl

Dinner plates, salad plates, plastic tumblers, "beach" utensils, napkins

Salad tongs

Pasta server

1 bottle cream sherry



Dried herbs (if using)

Unopened bottle of salad dressing (to minimize cold packing)


Wine for adults, soft drinks for kids

Cookies (biscuits) of choice

(Perishable items, to be placed in large cooler and ice packs)

Container with 3/4 lb. to 1 1/2 lb. cooked pasta, any shape, depending on number being served

Container with sliced mushrooms and chopped bacon


Fresh herbs to taste, chopped, if using


Tub of Parmesan

Pre-washed salad

Fruit, if desired (Ripe strawberries are easy; wash, leave stems on, and pass around for nibbling with cookies/biscuits. Grapes are easier still--but strawberries in season are elegant.)

NOTE: Many cooks would not put any liquid into a cast iron skillet. But this recipe contains enough fat and is so thick that it hasn't hurt my well-seasoned skillet a bit, especially as the sherry, just splashed in, cooks off instantly. Plus, mushrooms never cook better than in a cast iron skillet.

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